SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- There have been two drug overdose deaths and eight arrests at a single Springfield apartment over the span of three months, police confirm.
The incidents reportedly took place between July 30 and October 8 on the 5000 block of Main Street in the Thurston area. During this time, Springfield police said officers responded to the residence nine times. The apartment renter is known to be 19-year-old Nicole Smith.
Jaiden Morrow has friends who she says overdosed at the apartment.
"I know her apartment is where people have zoned in on, 'OK this is where I can get my drugs and this is where I can do my drugs,'" said Morrow. "A lot of kids who go into that apartment want to fit in. They want to be cool for their friends."
Morrow is a past addict who is nearing one year of being clean off drugs. She hopes to get into addiction counseling in the near future and said she is speaking out because of the growing concern of overdoses in the area.
"I think drugs need to stop being romanticized and glorified," said Morrow. "Also if drugs weren't so accessible it wouldn't be such an issue."
Springfield Police Detective Justin Myers is the lead detective on this case. He said the incidents at the apartment are still under investigation but there are some legal barriers preventing criminal prosecution.
"There's legal requirements that allow us to search a property if we can get a judge to agree there's evidence of crime there," Myers said. "But now that there's legalization or violation of drug possession, it takes that tool off the table for us."
The eight different people arrested for various charges include:
- Nicole Smith, 19 (arrested July 30)
- Nikolas Ray, 20 (arrested Aug. 4)
- Christian Wobbe, 23 (arrested Sept. 7)
- Alex Chase, 18 (arrested Sept. 24)
- Jonathan Clifton, 19 (arrested Sept. 24)
- Juvenile (arrested Sept. 24)
- Juvenile (arrested Oct. 8)
- Juvenile (arrested Oct. 8)
The two deaths from drug overdoses were both juveniles and happened on Aug. 4 and Oct. 10. Toxicology reports are still pending, but fentanyl is suspected to be the cause.
"What used to not rise the level of an overdose, now people are overdosing," said Myers. "So you see more and more and more because a drug is that much more potent."
The number of fentanyl-related deaths have been on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports deaths from synthetic opioids in 2019 are 12 times higher than in 2013.
In the state, Oregon Health Authority reported 62 deaths due to fentanyl in 2019.
Back in May, 17-year-old Michael Henderson also died from a suspected fentanyl overdose in Eugene.
"There is an element that the apartment renter is a center piece in all of this. It's her apartment," said Myers. "I don't know if it would be fair to say this activity is solely her fault. There's a bunch of other factors contributing to this."
Myers doesn't believe closing down the apartment will fix the long-term problem and said the end goal is to prevent activity like this in the future.
"Shutting down the apartment will stop the problem there, clearly," said Myers. "But unfortunately, the problem will shift to some other area or location until the individuals involved decide to make a change for themselves. Our goal is not necessarily criminal prosecution. It's to stop this behavior and keep people safe. We want to prevent this type of activity from happening to anybody but especially juveniles."
In a statement, Springfield police said:
"Springfield Police recognize this is a problematic apartment and have focused our attention and energies to improving this. SPD is committed to addressing this issue and others like it.
"With the detective division assigned, we are better able to coordinate with community partners (District Attorney’s Office, property owner/management) to try to prevent additional cases and hold those responsible for criminal conduct accountable. But at the same time, it is an open investigation and to protect the integrity of the investigation we cannot say a lot.
"In addition to investigations resources, SPD Patrol Officers are well-aware of the location and focus their attention on the apartment as time allows."
Anyone with information can call the investigations unit directly at 541-726-3714.
A friend of Smith's who answered the door of the apartment Friday said she is moving out on Sunday.
Emerald Property Management is the company that manages the apartment. A spokesman said as soon as the company was notified by Springfield police of the incidents at the apartment, it issued appropriate notice.